Three Rights of Workers

Follow these links to related legislation

Highlighted words reveal definitions when selected

Every worker in Newfoundland and Labrador has the right to a healthy and safe workplace. Occupational health and safety (OHS) is the responsibility of every person in the workplace. The OHS Act and Regulations legislate these responsibilities by stating the fundamental rights, duties and obligations of all persons associated with the workplace.

Workers in Newfoundland and Labrador (and across Canada) are granted three rights as part of the internal responsibility system that helps to make sure that everyone at the workplace takes responsibility for their own health and safety, and the health and safety of others.

These three rights are:

  • The right to know;
  • The right to participate; and
  • The right to refuse unsafe work.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers must:

  • Make all reasonable efforts to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their workers.
  • Provide the necessary information, instruction, training, supervision, and facilities.
  • Make sure workers, particularly supervisors, are made familiar with present and potential workplace hazards.

Right to Know

The right to know refers to workers being made aware of all present and potential hazards in the workplace. Workers also have the right to know how these hazards are being controlled. Workers are informed of these hazards through education, training, and communication activities, as well as regular coaching from supervisors.

Right to Participate

The right to participate means that workers should be involved in the process of identifying and resolving OHS issues. Participation may include reporting hazards, or discussing concerns, or suggestions for improvement with supervisors, and the OHS Committee, WHS Representative, or Designate. Another effective way is to serve on the OHS Committee or to act as a WHS Representative.

Right to Refuse

Workers may refuse to do work that they believe is dangerous to their health and safety, or the health and safety of another person at the workplace. Workers must not take advantage of this right to refuse work without reasonable grounds.

Where a worker wishes to use their right to refuse unsafe work, the following three step procedure must be used:

  • Step 1: The worker must first immediately report the precise conditions of their refusal to their supervisor.

  • If the refusal is resolved to the workers satisfaction, the worker must return to work. If the refusal remains unresolved proceed to Step 2.

  • Step 2: The supervisor reports the unresolved work refusal to the OHS Committee or WHS Representative for investigation. The employer (or worker) should notify OHS Division of the refusal.

  • If the refusal is resolved to the workers satisfaction, the worker must return to work. If the refusal remains unresolved proceed to Step 3.

  • Step 3: The employer (or worker) must immediately report the unresolved work refusal to OHS Division for investigation and resolution. When the report is made orally, it must be followed up in writing within five days.
Supervisor cirriculum

Where there has been a refusal to work by one worker, that same work cannot be reassigned to another worker unless the other worker has been informed of the refusal and the reason for that refusal.

While a work refusal is under investigation, the employer may reassign the worker to other work that is reasonably equivalent to their normal work. The worker must accept the reassignment until they are able to return to the work first assigned.

While the worker is using their right to refuse, the employer must pay the worker the same wages or salary they would have received if they had continued their usual tasks. If the worker is not reassigned other work, the employer must pay the same wages or salary and grant the same benefits as if the worker had continued to do work. Reassignment of work in this situation is not considered to be discriminatory action.

The employer or union may not take discriminatory actions against workers by dismissing them, deducting wages, salary or other benefits, or by through other disciplinary actions against them for reasonably refusing work under their rights. Where disciplinary action is taken against workers, that action or dismissal will be considered discriminatory (unless there is evidence to show otherwise).

Worker Responsibilities

Workers must:

  • Make all reasonable efforts to protect their own health and safety, and that of workers and other persons at, or near, the workplace.
  • Co-operate with the employer and co-workers to protect the health and safety of everyone in the workplace.
  • Use or wear all necessary PPE and safety devices according to manufacturers instructions and training.
  • Follow safe work practices and procedures.
  • Immediately report hazards to the supervisor or employer.
  • Not carry out work, or operate a tool, appliance or equipment, where a present or potential hazard creates imminent danger to themselves or others.
  • Participate in training and hazard assessments, where it is offered.

Related Topics

Workplace

A place where a worker or self-employed person is engaged in an occupation and includes a vehicle or mobile equipment used by a worker in an occupation.

Internal responsibility system

The internal responsibility system is the underlying philosophy of the occupational health and safety legislation in all Canadian jurisdictions. Its foundation is that everyone in the workplace - both employees and employers - is responsible for his or her own safety and for the safety of co-workers. Acts and regulations do not always impose or prescribe the specific steps to take for compliance. Instead, it holds employers responsible for determining such steps to ensure health and safety of all employees.

Supervisor

A person authorized or designated by an employer to exercise direction and control over workers of the employer.

OHS committee

Where 10 or more workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall establish an occupational health and safety committee to monitor the health, safety and welfare of the workers employed at the workplace.
A committee shall consist of 2 to 12 persons. Where the employer and workers cannot agree on the size of the committee, the minister may establish its size.
At least half of the members are to be persons representing the workers who are not connected with the management. The persons representing the workers are to be elected by other workers or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the union of which the workers are members.
The employer shall appoint sufficient employer representatives to ensure that the committee may function.
The employer and worker members of a committee shall elect a co-chair person from their respective groups.
The employer shall post the names of the committee members in a prominent place at the workplace.
A committee:
  • Shall seek to identify aspects of the workplace that may be unhealthy or unsafe;
  • Shall participate in a workplace inspection that an employer is required by the regulations to conduct;
  • May make recommendations to principal contractors, employers, workers, self-employed persons and the assistant deputy minister or an officer for the enforcement of standards to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers at the workplace;
  • Shall receive complaints from workers as to their concerns about the health and safety of the workplace and their welfare;
  • Shall establish and promote health and safety educational programs for workers;
  • Shall maintain records as to the receipt and disposition of complaints received from workers;
  • Shall co-operate with the assistant deputy minister or an officer who is exercising his or her duties under the act; and
  • Shall perform those other duties and follow those procedures that may be prescribed by the regulations.
Meetings of a committee shall take place during regular working hours at least once every 3 months and a worker is not to suffer loss of pay or other benefits while engaged in a meeting of a committee.

Worker Health and Safety Representative

Where less than 10 workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall ensure that a worker not connected with the management of the workplace is designated as the worker health and safety representative to monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace.

The worker health and safety representative is to be elected by other workers at the workplace or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the labour union of which the workers are members.
The employer shall post the name of the worker health and safety representative in a prominent place at the workplace.
A worker health and safety representative has the same duties as those imposed upon a committee where that is reasonably practicable.
A worker health and safety representative shall consult with his or her employer while performing his or her duties.

Workplace Health and Safety Designate

Where less than 6 persons are engaged at a workplace and the designation of a worker health and safety representative is impracticable, the employer may designate a workplace health and safety designate to monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace.
The workplace health and safety designate shall be appointed by the employer. The workplace health and safety designate may be either a worker connected with the management of the workplace; or the employer, if the designation of a worker connected with the management of the workplace is not practicable.
If the assistant deputy minister or an officer is of the opinion that a workplace health and safety designate cannot adequately monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace, the assistant deputy minister or officer shall order, in writing, that a worker health and safety representative be designated.
The employer shall provide and pay for training for the workplace health and safety designate. The training provided shall meet the requirements that the Workplace Health and Safety Compensation Commission may set. An employer shall compensate a worker for participating in training as if the training were regular work.
The workplace health and safety designate shall participate in the training provided.
The employer shall post the name of the worker health and safety designate in a prominent place at the workplace.
A worker health and safety designate has the same duties as those imposed upon a committee where that is reasonably practicable.
A worker health and safety designate, where the workplace health and safety designate is not the employer, shall consult with his or her employer while performing his or her duties. Where the workplace health and safety designate is the employer, he or she shall consult with the workers while performing his or her duties.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT
R.S.N.L. 1990, c. O-3

Section 2 Definitions

2. In this Act

(a) "assistant deputy minister" means an assistant deputy minister appointed under section 9 of the Executive Council Act for the proper conduct of this Act;

(b) "board" means the Labour Relations Board referred to in the Labour Relations Act;

(c) "committee" means an occupational health and safety committee referred to in this Act;

(d) "council" means the Occupational Health and Safety Council referred to in this Act;

(e) "division" means the Occupational Health and Safety Division;

(f) "employer" means a person who employs 1 or more workers;

(g) "minister" means the minister appointed under the Executive Council Act to administer this Act;

(h) "occupation" means employment prescribed by the regulations as an occupation;

(i) "officer" means an occupational health and safety officer appointed under this Act and includes a medical practitioner providing services under section 20 while he or she is providing those services;

(j) "principal contractor" means the person primarily responsible for the carrying out of a project and includes the person who owns the thing in respect of which the project is being carried out;

(k) "self-employed person" means a person who is engaged in an occupation on his or her own behalf;

(k.1) "supervisor" means a person authorized or designated by an employer to exercise direction and control over workers of the employer;

(l) "supplier" means a person who rents or leases tools, appliances or equipment to be used by a worker;

(m) "worker" means a person engaged in an occupation; and

(n) "workplace" means a place where a worker or self-employed person is engaged in an occupation and includes a vehicle or mobile equipment used by a worker in an occupation.

[S.N.L. 1999, c. 28, s. 1; 2006, c. 16, s. 1; 2009, c. 19, s. 1]

Section 4 Employers' general duty

4. An employer shall ensure, where it is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of his or her workers.

Section 5 Specific duties of employers

5. Without limiting the generality of section 4, an employer

(a) shall, where it is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a workplace and the necessary equipment, systems and tools that are safe and without risk to the health of his or her workers;

(b) shall, where it is reasonably practicable, provide the information, instruction, training and supervision and facilities that are necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare of his or her workers;

(c) shall ensure that his or her workers, and particularly his or her supervisors, are made familiar with health or safety hazards that may be met by them in the workplace;

(d) shall, where it is reasonably practicable, conduct his or her undertaking so that persons not in his or her employ are not exposed to health or safety hazards as a result of the undertaking;

(e) shall ensure that his or her workers are given operating instruction in the use of devices and equipment provided for their protection;

(f) shall consult and co-operate with the occupational health and safety committee, the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate, where the employer is not the workplace health and safety designate, on all matters respecting occupational health and safety at the workplace;

(f.1) shall respond in writing within 30 days to a recommendation of

(i) the occupational health and safety committee at the workplace,

(ii) the worker health and safety representative at the workplace, or

(iii) where the employer is not the workplace health and safety designate, the workplace health and safety designate at the workplace

indicating that the recommendation has been accepted or that it has been rejected, with a reason for the rejection;

(f.2) shall provide periodic written updates to

(i) the occupational health and safety committee at the workplace,

(ii) the worker health and safety representative at the workplace, or

(iii) where the employer is not the workplace health and safety designate, the workplace health and safety designate at the workplace

on the implementation of a recommendation accepted by the employer until the implementation is complete;

(f.3) shall consult with

(i) the occupational health and safety committee at the workplace,

(ii) the worker health and safety representative at the workplace, or

(iii) where the employer is not the workplace health and safety designate, the workplace health and safety designate at the workplace

about the scheduling of workplace inspections that are required by the regulations, and ensure that the committee, the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate participates in the inspection; and

(g) shall co-operate with a person exercising a duty imposed by this Act or regulations.

[S.N.L. 1999, c. 28, s. 2; 2001, c. 10, s. 25; 2004, c. 52, s. 1]

Section 6 Workers' general duty

6. A worker, while at work, shall take reasonable care to protect his or her own health and safety and that of workers and other persons at or near the workplace.

Section 7 Specific duties of workers

7. A worker

(a) shall co-operate with his or her employer and with other workers in the workplace to protect

(i) his or her own health and safety,

(ii) the health and safety of other workers engaged in the work of the employer,

(iii) the health and safety of other workers or persons not engaged in the work of the employer but present at or near the workplace;

(a.1) shall use devices and equipment provided for his or her protection in accordance with the instructions for use and training provided with respect to the devices and equipment;

(b) shall consult and co-operate with the occupational health and safety committee, the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate at the workplace; and

(c) shall co-operate with a person exercising a duty imposed by this Act or regulations.

[S.N.L. 1999, c. 28, s. 3; 2001, c. 10, s. 26; 2004, c. 52, s. 2]

Section 8 Imminent danger

8. A worker shall not

(a) carry out work where there exists an imminent danger to his or her or another worker's health or safety or the health or safety of another person; or

(b) operate a tool, appliance or equipment that will create an imminent danger to his or her or another worker's health or safety or the health or safety of another person.

Section 37 Committees

37. Where 10 or more workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall establish an occupational health and safety committee to monitor the health, safety and welfare of the workers employed at the workplace.

[S.N.L. 1999, c. 28, s. 9]

Section 38 Membership of committees

38. (1) A committee shall consist of the number of persons that may be agreed to by the employer and the workers but shall not be less than 2 nor more than 12 persons.

(2) At least half of the members of a committee are to be persons representing the workers at the workplace who are not connected with the management of the workplace.

(3) The persons representing the workers on the committee are to be elected by other workers at the workplace or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the union of which the workers are members.

(4) Where the employer and workers cannot agree on the size of the committee, the minister may establish its size.

(5) The employer shall appoint sufficient employer representatives to ensure that the committee may function.

(6) The employer and worker members of a committee shall elect a co- chairperson from their respective groups.

(7) The employer shall post the names of the committee members in a prominent place at the workplace.

Section 39 Duties of committees

39. A committee established under section 37

(a) shall seek to identify aspects of the workplace that may be unhealthy or unsafe;

(a.1) shall participate in a workplace inspection that an employer is required by the regulations to conduct;

(b) may make recommendations to principal contractors, employers, workers, self-employed persons and the assistant deputy minister or an officer for the enforcement of standards to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers at the workplace;

(c) shall receive complaints from workers as to their concerns about the health and safety of the workplace and their welfare;

(d) shall establish and promote health and safety educational programs for workers;

(e) shall maintain records as to the receipt and disposition of complaints received from workers under paragraph (c);

(f) shall co-operate with the assistant deputy minister or an officer who is exercising his or her duties under the Act; and

(g) shall perform those other duties and follow those procedures that may be prescribed by the regulations.

[S.N.L. 2001, c. 10, s. 29]

Section 40 Meetings of committee

40. Meetings of a committee shall take place during regular working hours at least once every 3 months and a worker is not to suffer loss of pay or other benefits while engaged in a meeting of a committee.

Section 41 Worker representative

41. (1) Where less than 10 workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall ensure that a worker not connected with the management of the workplace is designated as the worker health and safety representative to monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace.

(2) The employer shall provide and pay for training for the worker health and safety representative.

(3) The training provided under subsection (2) shall meet the requirements the Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission may set.

(4) The worker health and safety representative shall participate in the training provided under this section.

(5) An employer shall compensate a worker for participating in training under this section as if the training were regular work.

[S.N.L. 2001, c. 10, s. 30; 2004, c. 47, s. 27]

Section 42 Election of representative

42. The worker health and safety representative is to be elected by other workers at the workplace or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the labour union of which the workers are members.

Section 43 Posting name

43. The employer shall post the name of the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate in a prominent place at the workplace.

[S.N.L. 2004, c. 52, s. 9]

Section 44 Duties of representative

44. (1) A worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate has the same duties as those imposed upon a committee under section 39, where that is reasonably practicable.

(2) A worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate, where the workplace health and safety designate is not the employer, shall consult with his or her employer while performing his or her duties under subsection (1).

(3) Where the workplace health and safety designate is the employer, he or she shall consult with the workers while performing his or her duties under subsection (1).

[S.N.L. 2004, c. 52, s. 10]

Section 45 Right to refuse to work

45. (1) A worker may refuse to do work that the worker has reasonable grounds to believe is dangerous to his or her health or safety, or the health and safety of another person at the workplace

(a) until remedial action has been taken by the employer to the worker's satisfaction;

(b) until the committee or worker health and safety representative has investigated the matter and advised the worker to return to work; or

(c) until an officer has investigated the matter and has advised the worker to return to work.

(2) Where a worker refuses to do work under subsection (1) his or her employer may reassign the worker to other work that is reasonably equivalent to the work he or she normally performs and the worker shall accept the reassignment until he or she is able to return to work under subsection (1).

(3) Where a worker is reassigned to other work under subsection (2) the employer shall pay the worker the same wages or salary and grant him or her the same benefits the worker would have received had the worker continued in his or her normal work.

(4) Where a worker has reasonably refused to work under subsection (1) and has not been reassigned to other work under subsection (2) the employer shall pay the worker the same wages or salary and grant the worker the same benefits the worker would have received had the worker continued to work, until he or she is able to return to work under subsection (1).

(5) A reassignment of work under subsection (2) is not discriminatory action under section 49.

Section 47 Report to division

47. Where a worker has made a report under section 46 and the matter has not been remedied to the satisfaction of the worker he or she shall report it, either in writing or orally, to the division or an officer.

Section 48 Duty of worker

48. A worker shall not take advantage of his or her right to refuse to work under section 45 without reasonable grounds.

Section 49 Discriminatory action prohibited

49. An employer or union shall not take a discriminatory action against a worker by dismissing him or her or be deducting wages, salary or other benefits, or by taking other disciplinary action against him or her

(a) because of the worker=s participation in or association with the committee, worker health and safety representative or workplace health and safety designate at the workplace, or because the worker is a worker health and safety representative or workplace health and safety designate;

(b) because the worker has testified or is about to testify in a proceeding or inquiry under this Act or regulations;

(c) because the worker has given information to the Workplace, Health, Safety and Compensation Commission, an officer or another person concerned with the administration of the Act or the regulations concerning the health, safety and welfare of workers at his or her workplace; or

(d) because the worker has reasonably refused to work under his or her right to do so under section 45.

[S.N.L. 1998, c. 19, s. 20; 2004, c. 52, s. 11]

Section 50 Discrimination

50. Where disciplinary action is taken against a worker or he or she is dismissed following an act by him or her under section 49, the disciplinary action or dismissal shall be considered to be, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, discriminatory.

Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2012
N.L.R. 5/12

Part I GENERAL

Section 5 Right to refuse work

5. (1) Where an employer cannot resolve an issue in the workplace regarding occupational health and safety and there is a refusal to work, the issue shall be referred to the occupational health and safety committee, the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate, as appropriate, and the employer shall notify the division.

(2) Where a notification under subsection (1) is made orally, the employer shall provide the division with a written confirmation of the notification within 5 days of the oral notification.

(3) Where action has been taken by a worker to exercise the right to refuse to work under the Act, the employer shall not assign a substitute worker to perform those duties unless the substitute worker has been informed of the prior refusal and the reason for that refusal.

Part III GENERAL DUTIES

Section 17 General duties of workers

17. (1) A worker shall make proper use of all necessary safeguards, protective clothing, safety devices, lifting devices or aids, and appliances

(a) designated and provided for his or her protection by the employer; or

(b) required under these regulations to be used or worn by a worker.

(2) A worker shall follow the safe work procedure in which he or she has been instructed.

(3) A worker shall immediately report a hazardous work condition that may come to his or her attention to the employer or supervisor.